This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
11 Oct 2002: Maharaj, Mac
POM Mac we had finished up on the 9th talking about the Rivonia trials had taken place, sentences had come down and only Rusty Bernstein had been acquitted so you were at a point that your top leadership is going to jail for life.
MM And Rusty of course was immediately rearrested and charged. He was arrested in the courtroom.
POM In the courtroom?
MM Yes, so our plans to try and get Raymond and others if they were acquitted to escape and evade re-arrest would have been pre-empted because as soon as the judge pronounced them all guilty and acquitted Rusty and adjourned the hearing for a subsequent date when he would be sentencing and for the defence to put up pleas in mitigation of sentence, as soon as that happened and the court adjourned Colonel Swanepoel, amongst others, dashed to the dock and put their hands on Rusty and said, "I'm arresting you, this time on charges under the Suppression of Communism Act." So Rusty was rearrested but this time because of the charge under Suppression of Communism where the maximum sentence I think could only be ten years unless they split the charges as in the Eastern Cape, Rusty's lawyers applied for bail and subsequently they got bail for Rusty. I think it was a few thousand rand bail and under conditions of house arrest and Rusty and Hilda then escaped from SA while I was in detention.
That escape was a crucial element in helping me to survive my torture because I was in detention at Marshall Square and one of the first warders that I befriended and cultivated was an African warder and one day when I was brought back from my interrogation to the cells this warder came to me, I was in great difficulty in the interrogation, I had been tortured day after day, and unable to map any way forward to relieve the pressure of the torture by giving any explanation which would not open a can of worms. In particular I have told you about how I had tried to fend off and prepare for the fingerprint explanation but I was still not yet at a point where I could give that explanation because linked to that was evidence from Piet Byleveld, I think, to say that I was in charge of a set of printing machines which had been brought into the country clandestinely in 1958. These are the first machines that I had repaired. Now if I made an admission on the cyclo-styling machine that was at Rivonia, even if I had a plausible explanation it would be lending credence that I knew a lot about printing and the pressure would immediately come about this information they had that I had printing machines in my possession. I was in a real trap and I was taking the torture, busy preparing the ground in case I had to explain my way out.
That day when I returned this black warder came to me and said, "Bernstein has escaped and he's out of the country." I said to him, "What do you mean?" He says, "No, today's papers have the news that he has arrived in Ndola", in the then Northern Rhodesia, today's Zambia. So I say to the warder, "Bring me that newspaper." Because I am saying is he trapping me? He eventually produced the newspaper and there was a photograph which I still remember taken at Ndola airport of Rusty and Hilda having disembarked from a plane from Botswana and it said that Rusty had evaded arrest, jumped bail and he and his wife Hilda had slipped out of the country clandestinely and now were out of the clutches of the SA regime.
POM How did they slip out if they were under house arrest?
MM As everybody did. At some point in the day, night, you slipped out of the back yard or some way, created decoys, comrades in the underground were available, transported you to the border of Botswana, guides were available to walk you across the border, people would be there on the other side. There was a comrade living in Botswana, a former treason trialist, his first name or his pet name was Fish Fish who? I'll get it for you.Fish Keitsing. Now Fish had after the treason trial settled in Botswana because he was born in Botswana and he became the key point of contact for people going out clandestinely and returning into the country. So Rusty and Hilda would have been escorted, taken to near the border, guided across the border and then Fish would pick them up on the Botswana side of the border, keep them safely and clandestinely in Botswana, arrange for them to fly out by charter flights, etc., and get them out. So that is how Rusty and Hilda some time in August/September 1964 it would be August/September, arrived in Ndola and this warder provided me with the newspaper so that in my mind I now had proof that they were out of the clutches of the regime.
What did that mean for me? It meant if I wanted to kill a track of anything that I said that I was involved in, it ended if I killed it with saying, oh, I did this with Rusty or I did this with Hilda. They cannot probe that further. But if I gave a name of anybody who was in the country or in detention they could go to that person, torture that person and get that person to give a different version which would come back to me under torture. I stored that information in my mind and I remember I agonised over it for days. One of the agonies was, could they have deliberately printed a dummy newspaper and planted it to reach me so that I would walk into that trap? But having worked my way through all those issues I eventually, when no room was left in my mind, no room left on the information that they had that I had these two to three machines from the GDR that were standing in a warehouse that were collected by me, and I said who can prove that those machines are functioning? Nobody, because Abdullahaihas escaped. Kathy had put me in touch but was sentenced and had not spoken but he would not know whether they were functioning. Moosajee, who was in my technical unit, is out of the country so there is nobody around who can contradict my story if I put a story.
Eventually that was one of my first points where I gave the semblance of co-operating with my interrogators. I did that by simulating a breakdown and I did the simulation of the breakdown with the so-called softie, Lieutenant van Rensburg. The bad guy/good guy. The good guy cop was Lieutenant van Rensburg who I've mentioned to you and he is the guy that allowed me to see my wife in detention.
POM This is when you wanted to do the ?
MM When I cut my wrists, yes. It was after that incident where he had allowed me to see my wife and I had tried to make her feel this scar. After that incident one day I am taken to his office and, of course, he's, "Oh, I don't like to see this thing happen to you. I'm opposed to it but I'm powerless. You need to give me something that I can us", and the something is talk. So as I recall now it must have been late in the evening one night where I had prepared myself now, I had got my explanation in mind and he had seated me across his desk that afternoon and that evening, trying his best to cajole his way to winning my confidence, to say, "Talk, talk to me, I can save you from being tortured." I then got up from my chair and began to simulate a state of extreme agitation, what I thought is the way a person who is breaking down would do, walked around
POM Did you remember that Ruth said she had used a simulation of - ?
MM No I didn't know what had happened to Ruth, didn't know what had happened to Ruth, but I had read articles about comrades coming out and saying that they were delusional, in semi-psychotic states in their isolation, they felt that the bed - that they were sleeping on the ceiling and the floor was the ceiling and the ceiling was the floor. And of course I had studied psychology a little bit in my first degree, I had majored in psychology. So I got up and started pacing, showing what I thought was extreme agitation and then becoming agitated and then saying to myself "Ja", and then "No", and I turned to him in what I thought was a dramatic way and I said, "I can't do it." And he, from his behaviour, showed to me that he was sensing that I'm going to talk so he became got up from his chair, he says, "Listen, speak, I'll protect you. Come on." So I said to him, "Sit down, I can betray a man but not awoman." And this makes him excited. "I'll handle it, I'll protect you." I said, 'No, it's not a protection problem. My conscience, how can I put a woman into trouble?' Now he's trying to urge me to speak. It went on for quite a period. "Do you want a cigarette?" "No." "Would you like a cup of coffee?" "No." Get up, start pacing, and he says, "But nobody will know that you've talked." So I say, "My conscience, my conscience. Betraying a woman." "I assure you nobody will know." I say, "No, no, no, that's not the important thing. How will I live with myself?" And a little later I drop in the next thing, just when I think he's going to give up again and sees I'm failing I have to keep him interested. So I said to him, "And what's more you've got her in detention. I can't do this. I can't expose her to the torture that you've been subjecting me to."
This saga went on. It was a whole evening's event and finally I said to him, "Well those machines, I collected them from a garage attached to a house." "Where was this?" I said, "I don't know, I was taken at night in a white suburb. I don't know this white suburb. I was told to get to a place, I got there and this woman met me. She told me where to drive my car in, reversed it into a yard and there was this garage in the back. The garage doors were opened and I had to load these machines." "Who was this?" Finally, after all this saga, I say, "Hilda Bernstein and you've got her in detention. I am feeling terrible." He couldn't say to me she has escaped. He couldn't say to me she is not in detention, and the thing had run into a dry sand. But where it gave me respite was that it looked like I had spoken.
So that's the incident how this thing came about and how I remember Rusty's escape because to me it was a saviour. I destroyed the newspaper at Marshall Square and said, right, here's another little bit of information, store it, you don't know how you're going to be able to use it to get out of a trap.
POM You didn't say to yourself, well if I speak once then they know I speak therefore he'll speak again if we just apply the right kind of threat?
MM Oh I had by now stored a number of things. For instance, I had sent a note through Doha to Bram Fischer.
POM Now how would Doha get it to Bram Fischer?
MM Doha was allowed, Doha was like an ordinary legal person, I was the clandestine person, illegal in the Transvaal, no relatives, arrested under the name Solly Matthews. That's what the newspapers said, that a Solly Matthews has been detained in Doornfontein. That's why my parents didn't know that I'm detained. But the point is nobody could even come to demand to visit me or bring me food because if they brought me food they would say, "How do you know him?" Now with Doha his wife Ayesha was there knocking every day at the police door, "Where's my husband? What are you doing to him? I want to give him food. I want to give him a change of clothes", and this battle was going on. So Doha was allowed a change of clothes and he was allowed, I don't remember whether every day or every few days, food from home and they would search it. But Doha had smuggled in a needle in his things so he would sew these messages written on toilet paper, he would sew it into the folds of clothing. Undo the collar, sew it in there or the lapel or something, or the trousers, or into the pyjama string. He told me that he could get a message out and one of the messages that I sent to Bram was advising him (a) which sites should be cleared in case I have to talk. I gave him addresses which nobody knew. Now I know, oh that's another chap, he's around, there's a chap called Issy Dinat. Unfortunately I have lost my addresses on my cell phone.
POM Just on that, I mentioned that to somebody, they said that when they got their new phone back from Vodacom that all their numbers were on.
MM No in my case the repair man said I have got to do a rebooting exercise where the information will disappear, will be wiped off from the memory, and when it came back to me its memory is gone so I'm busy re-entering numbers. But be that as it may
POM You can get an address, a number for him?
MM We'll get it, yes. Now Issy Dinat was married to Indres Naidoo's sister, he's still married to her. Yes Indres will give it to us, his number. I learnt in London, because Issy fled the country subsequently, but Issy told me of the surprise he got when just down the road from the Naidoos in one of the side streets I had hired two rooms on the first floor. Those two rooms were for these GDR printing machines and it was a library for the party. Now I said, "Clear these two rooms in Buxton Street and send me confirmation that you've cleared it and whoever clears it must remove all fingerprints on the walls and everything." I had still not received confirmation at this stage. So that was one thing. I gave addresses and I said, "These are the addresses in case, before I break down, if I am breaking down, I need confirmation that you've cleaned it and there is no trace of where you've removed things. Don't tell me who has removed it but in case I have to I will point to that address after confirmation."
The second thing I had said was, "The following comrades had better get out of the country." And in particular I had mentioned Dan Tloome who was on the Central Committee. I said the heat is going to be on on Dan, it's already on without my saying anything but he must get out of the way and I want confirmation that he is out of the way. Now I had received word that Dan is gone and I was still paranoid saying, "Is he safely gone? Tell me that he's safe. Just come back and say he's safe, he's in Botswana."
So I had stored these bits of information not to give it out at one shot so that, as you say, if you have simulated or spoken then you must expect that you will be asked to speak again and what will happen is you've got to absorb all their interrogation and beating to know what do they know. The key problem was, have you exhausted what they know? I only confessed to the Rivonia fingerprints on the duplicating machine at some point when I was thoroughly satisfied that my legend was now watertight. On that particular instance I said they wouldn't tell me where are the fingerprints at Rivonia, and I would say, "Is it on the wall? Because if it's on the wall I've never been there. If it's on the door I've never been there." And they wouldn't give me this until one day one of the officers, in sort of frustration, said, "It's on a moveable thing." So I stored that and as we went down the line in subsequent days I said, "A fish and chips, a bloody packet I might have bought with fish and chips in a stall and that bloody packet ended up blown by the wind in the yard and you say my fingerprints are there?" "No, no, no, it's a substantial thing." "What is it?" They wouldn't give. But now we had narrowed down the information and I knew now that, ah, it is that duplicating machine. Yes, I remember the incident where I had taken off the gloves to get down a crevice where a screw had fallen. So I said, "OK, I've got to get this thing sorted out in my mind, is that what they are referring to?" When I was satisfied I banked it. Now I've got Doha covered.
The legend is that I used to live, and consistent from the time of arrest I don't work for an employer, I live by buying and selling back door goods. So I'm a petty criminal caught up in this big web. "Ah! I remember selling to a chap in Market Street." "Who?" "I don't know." Description? Fitted Doha. But I tried to sell it to him the first time. He refused to take it. Weeks later I offered to him an electric roneo machine and he said, "Oh somebody wants it."
POM You offered?
MM An electric roneo, cyclo-styling machine, a Roneo model.
POM When you say you offered it to him?
MM For sale, to sell it. I buy stolen goods and I sell them and I met this chap in Market Street, an Indian chap, and by this time I've lined up Doha that if they question me and there's no answer yet until I said they put a photograph to me. If they put a photograph to you under interrogation then instantly you must say, oh that one I recognise, because Doha's answer is, "I'm an open member of the TIC, I'm under banning. You know I'm an opponent of the government. I have a history of opposition from the thirties so what crap are you talking to me? But if you say I'm involved in sabotage and underground, I'm not." So I said, "Doha, you must be prepared to speak that way because you've got that background, known public background, but do not admit to any illegal activities." But if they put this photograph on you then in a frame of mind that looks like a very co-operative person, open opponent of apartheid, but not involved in illegal work, you must say, oh, wait let me see that photograph. Ah, I think I recognise this bloke, what's his name? I say I don't know his name, I met him in the bloody street, he pestered me, he's a bloody backdoor dealer. Backdoor what? He says, no, don't put me in trouble please guys. What do you mean don't put you in trouble? He says, shit, I bought a machine because he pestered me and pestered me so I bought a cyclo-styling machine from him. What did you do with it? Oh I gave it to Kathrada. The friendship between him and Kathrada, knowing he's occupying Kathrada's flat from the time Kathrada disappeared. No problem about it.
That is how we got to explaining the roneo machine. It almost went wrong because, as I say, when they took Doha, the first time they took him for interrogation days after his detention, I get back to my cell, we start conversing through that hole and he tells me he's been taken for interrogation that day. Of course I'm agitated. I said, "Did you confirm this story?" He says, "No." I said, "Why not? You were supposed to give the image of a co-operative, open anti-apartheid person belonging to the TIC." He says, "No, shit, they beat me up. Once they gave me the first slap I decided I'm not talking." I said, "But you've left me in the shit, you haven't backed up my legend." "Oh, sorry about that but you know they annoyed me. Next time they call me for questioning I'll back you up."
POM I think he mentioned to me that the first time he was taken for questioning when they slapped him.
MM He changed his position and said, "Fuck off."
POM He said, I asked him why he remained relatively untouched and he attributed a lot of it to the fact that he could speak Afrikaans.
MM He's from Schweizer-Reneke.
POM And that he would use the Afrikaans to denigrate Africans, kind of fit into the
MM That's his interpretation but the second thing is that they had no direct clue about him because who had the direct clue? He was in a two-man unit with me and even when he was in the printing unit the man who did the setting of the plates did that one bad thing, one side. Doha and I and my ex wife and a chap called Freddie would run the machines and when we delivered things we would leave them in suitcases to be collected at a venue. Nobody would be present to hand over the suitcases. You left the suitcases in a spot and you went away so that the chap who came with the truck, including Michael Dingake, would not know who's delivering this stuff. So Doha was safe in that way unless I spoke but they had information from some other detainee that a short Indian man who was banned was responsible for taking people seeking to escape out of the country to Botswana. That is why, and the escape of Goldreich, Mosey Muller, Harold Wolpe and Abdullahai Jassat, they had information that one of escapees had stayed at my place in Pearce Street after escape and prior to getting out of the country. Now the information was a banned, short Indian chap. They arrested every banned Indian short chap. They arrested Essop Jassat. If you meet him you'll find he's short. They arrested Amien Cajee. They arrested Babla Saloojee and they killed Babla Saloojee.
POM They killed him?
MM Yes they did. They threw him out of the window, from the seventh floor at The Greys. That is what brought an end to my torture because in October 1964 their information said that there is this banned person who has been involved in enabling the escapees from Marshall Square to get out of the country.
POM People escaped from Marshall Square?
MM Yes, yes, four of them.
POM We'll get to that later.
MM This was before my detention.
POM Before your detention? OK.
MM Now a warder who helped them to escape got arrested. The information says, in my reconstruction, a banned Indian and presumably short. They moved me from Marshall Square to make room for a huge round of detentions and that included Essop Jassat. They already had Amien Cajee and it included Babla Saloojee. Now Babla was the driver who brought Mosey Muller for safe keeping in my place. Babla was the person critically involved in ferrying people out of the country to Botswana. I told George Bizos who was handling the inquest when I was now on trial that, "Listen, they are saying that Babla Saloojee jumped out of the window from the seventh floor. I know that room well. I've been tortured for nights." I said, "When they tortured us they closed those windows in the room." George questioned them whether and do an inspection whether the window was broken, the window pane or whether it was intact, meaning did he jump out of an open window? Because in my view he was thrown out because if the window pane is not damaged then I am saying he was thrown out, but if the window pane was broken there is a possibility that he could have jumped out. But I don't buy that he jumped out because I know that some of us were held out at night by our ankles, hanging out of the window and told to speak. Now the man who would hold us, held me, was Van der Merwe. Van der Merwe, this left handed man with this
POM The good cop with Ruth.
MM The bad cop with Ruth, bad with me too. Viktor was the good cop with Ruth. With me the good cop was Van Rensburg. But what Viktor did, one of the most frightening things
POM Viktor did this?
MM No van der Merwe. He would hold they would put you out of the window at night and hold you by your two ankles and then he would let go one ankle. Now as far as you're concerned you're dead, all you felt is like you're going down. It's feasible in my mind, and what was preoccupying you is when you were then pulled back you said, shit, what if he lets go, you're dead. For me, let go, it's fine by now in my mind. But the second question was what if when he let go one ankle the sheer weight of it falling on one arm leads to a slippage. You're still dead. It was a frightening experience.
POM You can feel yourself slip out of the other.
MM The first person they did that too was one of the escapees from Marshall Square, one of the four, Abdullahai Jassat. Abdullahai has been permanently mentally impaired, Essop Jassat's brother, the doctor's brother. I just saw him the other night. He has had to be on permanent treatment since then for all sorts of disorders.
POM Do you have a number for him?
MM I'll get you the number. But even Doha would know it. You've taken his name down previously.
POM I have.
MM So Abdullahai was the first guy that this happened to. In fact I still have a joke with Abdullahai every time I meet him because he's Moslem and he's married to a so-called Tamil girl and I say in moments of severe threat to your life you slip back to your mother tongue but I say Abdullahai when they let go of his one leg he shouted, "Amah", which is the Tamil for mother. So I joke with him I say, "How come you shouted in Tamil you fucking Moslem, you should have been crying for Allah!"
POM You're saying to Bizos?
MM We had been moved, my group of detainees had been moved to Pretoria Central Prison making room for people who they were now going to detain for immediate questioning because they were reaching dead ends and they wanted new threads.
POM Just finish with George Bizos. He asked the question?
MM I don't know. The inquest took place after I was on Robben Island, never got news, but the inquest had found cause of death unknown or yes, nobody had been found, fingered for that death of Babla Saloojee. His widow is still alive in Johannesburg. Her name is Rookeya. Esakjee and Doha would know where to find Rookeya nowadays. She's still around. She might have a different surname now. But the late Babla's wife, the first name is Babla Saloojee, killed in detention in I would think a day in October 1964, the second or third detainee to be killed in detention.
POM So they cleared you guys out.
MM Took us to Pretoria jail. I remember smuggling in information in Pretoria jail that Babla had died in detention. Now the remarkable thing is there was a huge outcry, this was the second or third death in detention. The first one was in Cape Town. What was his name? He was a trade unionist. So Babla was the second or third death and it obviously sent a tremor through society and there was a huge outcry, lawyers demanding to see the body, to have their own surgeon at the inquest, etc., and saying what is happening in detention?
POM Would these be white lawyers mostly?
MM There would be lawyers like George Bizos, a few left from the democratic forces. That was the period when suddenly my interrogation came to an end. It seems that this problem that they had to handle now changed their strategy and their strategy became charge them, charge them, try them and sentence the bastards. I say it's October, I think it's October 5th, I don't know why it's sitting in my mind, that Babla died. They kept us in detention for another month or so and they began to allow us to receive food from friends.
POM Without questioning how they knew you?
MM Friends in Pretoria, there was a family related to the Naidoo family.
POM You're now in Pretoria when you began to get food?
MM Yes. Who from the treason trial days used to bring bulk food for the detainees and I began to receive food. My view is that they kept the other because they never interrogated any of us after that, they only came once to me in a threatening way, "Oh so you're the government printer!" "What do you mean I'm the government printer?" "Yes, you bastard, we've now learnt that when you were going to be free you were going to be the government printer." By that, meaning we've now got information, we've pieced it together that one of your key roles was that you handled the whole printing thing and propaganda. So he said it in a threatening way.
POM Government printer? He used that facetiously to
MM Facetiously, meaning when you take over power
POM You're going to be the government printer.
MM But, "We know you, you bastard. You're the fucking printer, all round printer." And I would say, shocked, "What do you mean? I'm just a backdoor dealing, I just sold a roneo machine and the other machines that I got from Hilda I never succeeded in repairing them. They were rusted." And then they left but on November 17th we were brought to trial. In my view that month was for you to recover physically so that when you appeared in court your physical appearance would not cause a stir. The group of us appeared then on trial on I think 17th November in Johannesburg Supreme Court. By that time Babla was dead. Where were we?
POM They had arrested all the
MM My wife had been released from detention. With Babla's death the chain of who was in charge and taking people out of the country was closed. How much did Babla speak? Did he speak? I don't know. All I know is that from my knowledge of that chain that would escort people out of the country to achieve, it broke with Babla's death. They could not get information to identify other people involved in that escape process and, indeed, I don't recall
POM If they couldn't get the information why did they - ?
MM He's dead.
POM OK, so why didn't that chain, all the people who were in it except Babla, why didn't it continue to take people out of the country?
MM How do you make that judgement and say, continue chaps? You don't know what Babla has said, you don't know what information they have. I'm putting it from my side in detention and interrogation and what I've gleaned.
POM They don't know how to read it.
MM But the fact that nobody got arrested and got charged for escorting people out of the country means that chain was cut, they could not act against others but if I was in that situation I would have still said to those involved, now you get out of the way, let others do the job, because you don't know whether the enemy is sitting back waiting to see them continue with the activity and then arrest them. You don't know that. All I am saying is that it precipitated (a) the end of our tortures, my group, (b) it precipitated a decision to bring us to trial in November and the Dohas who had been picked up in this Security Police net and Essop Jassat as the banned persons who were involved in this escaping of people from the country, were released and their release tells me that they had now, before Babla's death, identified Babla as the one, whereas they had picked them up under a particular suspicion and that suspicion was nullified because they had certainly narrowed it down and confirmed in their minds that the man that they were looking for was Babla because what they were looking for was a banned Indian, short in stature. Babla was dead and Essop had not confessed to it, Doha had not confessed to it, what were they holding them for now? So that's how it was.
POM Every short Indian.
MM They couldn't do that for ever.
POM Not even under apartheid?
MM Well you'd be wasting continuing to feed the bloke.
POM You'd be wasting the cell space. Just before we leave there, did it ever strike your mind you mentioned that Tim had taken part in that printing process, that she would break?
MM Yes but her breakdown could only lead to three bits of information. One, that indeed I was in the underground. That had been independently confirmed for the police by another detainee. And if she said that I was not afraid. They thought she's my girl friend and even if she broke or they forced her to appear as a witness I knew in my knowledge of the law, and I was married in Britain don't forget, I knew that producing proof that I'm married to her would disqualify her from giving evidence against me.
POM Even in SA?
MM In those years.
POM Is that right?
MM Yes. Anyway that's how I thought.
POM Did that change later?
MM I don't know. The second thing was, who else could she finger? Doha and a chap called Freddie, she didn't know his surname, she didn't know where he stays. End of the road. So, yes, I was worried how she was being treated but it was a small factor of the problems that I would have to handle.
POM Was she arrested under Tim Naidoo?
MM She was arrested under the name Tim Naidoo.
POM And you were Matthews? OK.
MM And then they found out that I was S R Maharaj, that my real name was Maharaj. They found out that my real name was Maharaj, arrested in July, sometime in August and I know who they found that out from. They found it out from Steve Naidoo. They detained Steve Naidoo and they brought him on the other side of me in Marshall Square, put him in the cell.
POM So you had Doha
MM On the right and Steve was on my left. For a period I had been without anybody. Then Doha arrived. Then one day I come back and that night as I'm communicating with Doha he says, "Look, there's a strange Indian chap here." "What does he look like?" He says, "I don't know him. I have looked at him through the keyhole because I saw a strange phenomenon. I saw him walking across and from the white section", beyond that grille was the white section of the prison, he says, "I saw him dragging a mattress." Now we were not given mattresses. So I say, "Describe what he looks like." So he describes a bit. I went to the other wall and I started knocking and after a while it sounded like a person was holding a comb against the wall and he began to rattle away in Morse code. Now I don't know Morse code. I can make out that oh the sounds are indicating Morse code but for some reason I sense that this person not only knew Morse code but knew how to operate the words in Morse code rapidly. It was just clicking away. Above my door there was an iron grille, mesh, and late at night when everything is silent I shout from there. "Nanda, is that you?" By this time I've worked out that the only person I know who knows Morse code, remember he made the oscillator, I say that's Nanda. I go to Doha, I say, "Does he look like this and this, like this?" "Yes." I am convinced that it's Nanda so I get up there and I shout along the corridor, "Nanda, is that you?" And after some time he comes, "Yes, that you Mac?" Yes. "When did they pick you up? How are things?" He said, "Well they've questioned me about you." I say, "Under what name?" He says, "No they put a photograph to me." I said, "What did you say?" He says, "I told them your name." I say, "You fucking bastard. Will you shut up now and stop talking. Do you realise that the little bit you said, identifying me, has led to my extra torture?" Because I couldn't place why at times your torture would become the interrogations would become like filled with urgency, but they had discovered my real name. I said, "Oh, now I know who gave it." To be fair to Nanda from that day he never spoke but they had given him the mattress because they thought here's a co-operative person.
POM How were you able to speak to him and not be able to speak to Doha?
MM To Doha at the beginning I hadn't identified him. I realised somebody was there and with him when I knocked on the wall the signal I got back was the distinct knock which he and I used and that very night, I told you, we started experimenting and we came across that iron tube. Now that meant you were talking in a way that no warder could overhear that you are communicating, whereas with Nanda I had no way to reach him and I was in the state of mind which said, oh, I had better first confirm who it is. On the other hand with Bram Fischer when he was brought into detention I was told one day by Doha, "Bram is here." Now Bram was in the other wing.
POM The white wing?
MM Yes. So late at night I got to my grille and shouted, "Bram, Bram, is that you?"
POM This is from the grille?
MM Yes. And it's echoing through the whole building and Bram was fantastic. A voice came back, "Yes it's me. Good night." Meaning I've said it's Mac, "Is that you? This is Mac." Is it a trap? Bram knows I'm under torture, I've smuggled messages out to him and he's pre-empted me from saying anything that would be overheard. He just said, "Yes, it's me." I said, "It's Mac here." "Good night", meaning don't talk any more. Silence.
POM Now were you getting messages out to him through Doha using the same - ?
MM No. Shortly thereafter Bram was given bail to go to the Privy Council in Britain to handle a case that he was involved in.
POM So there was a distinction between the way they treated black prisoners and the way they treated white prisoners who ?
MM Well Bram's detention Bram had been the son of the Premier of the Free State, scion of the Afrikaner family, leading Queen's Counsel. In those days we were still part of the British Empire, or Senior Counsel registered at the British Bar and there was a huge case being heard in the London High Court which was in process at the time he was detained and they gave him bail and permission to travel out of the country on an undertaking that he would return. He went there, he met Joe Slovo, Dadoo and all. They had a meeting. He reported on his assessment of what was happening. They said to him, "Stay behind, don't go home." And he said, "No, comrades, I gave my undertaking that I would return and I think that one of the things that we have in our struggle is integrity and I have to go back", and he returned to face his trial.
POM He came back and he was sent back to Marshall Square?
MM He came back while on bail, because he came back they couldn't withdraw the bail. Everybody is saying why would you keep him in detention? He's out on bail and he's honoured the bail. He could have stayed away, he's come back. So he says, "I'm not running away." And in 1965 they brought him to trial and the evidence showed that they were going to find him guilty of sabotage. It was very clear he was going to be sentenced like the Rivonia prisoners. There was enough evidence that he was in Rivonia, he was part of the Central Committee of the Communist Party even while he was defending the Rivonia trialists. He didn't challenge the evidence, he made a statement from the dock and then a day or so before he was due to be sentenced he jumped bail, released a statement to the media that he's gone underground, he has not left the country and he's continuing with the struggle. Then a year later he was arrested.
POM When they arrested him the second time?
MM They arrested him the second time.
POM Would you have been out by then?
MM No. I was now on Robben Island.
POM But a year later was 1976.
MM No this is 1965.
POM Oh sorry, yes.
MM That's when it led to that incident I think I've told you where the Security Branch visited me and Wilton Mkwayi in Robben Island. They saw us individually and they threatened to re-charge us over and over and prolong our sentences. Wilton was serving life, he told them to go to hell. I tried to bait them along and when they suddenly came back on a visit and I'd been discussing with Madiba and then how should I play this and we were working towards a scenario where I would not appear to be co-operating but I would not appear to be volunteering and I would try and manoeuvre them to subpoena me to court in the Fischer sentencing and when they called me there I would then tell the court the conditions we are in in prison. But when they came back they suddenly said to me, "You bastard, you've been stringing us along all the time, the way you strung us in detention and now you're stringing us along trying to such information from us." What they had unearthed was that will that I had smuggled out with Doha which had reached Bram and a year later my wife at that time working in Cape Town at Groote Schuur had heard about it and demanded that she be given that will. It was on toilet paper and Indres Naidoo's brother, Murthi, was on a trip to visit Indres and was taking this will to give it to Tim but at the airport he was arrested and they found it on him. In that it described how I was baiting and trying to get information from them under interrogation so they realised that he's playing some game and they just said, "Piss off." About a year later I pieced it all together and realised that they had found that will and through that were able to read how I was manipulating them under interrogation and they therefore extrapolated from that that I was manipulating them over this question of would I come and give evidence against Bram. They decided it's not worth playing this game.
POM So you described in the will - ?
MM I described in the will, the will was something that said this is my last will and testament. I said although I'm going to commit suicide I want the world to know that this is not suicide, it is murder. This is the torture that I have been undergoing, these are my torturers, so that when I do commit suicide let the world know that I was murdered by these people. I then went on to outline the information, how I'd been conducting myself in interrogation, what information I had extracted that I had not yet smuggled out to Bram and outlined further information. I said I want the world to know that I am taking my life but let it be understood I'm taking my life but it's not really suicide it is murder. And then saying to my wife that, look, this is the only way it's got to end, what I thought of her and saying to her I have no property, nothing.
POM Sorry, you were just saying at the end of the will?
MM It was to end up saying to my wife that I've got nothing to bequeath to her but all I've got is my love for her and that she must never think of my death as a suicide, she must realise that it is murder and that I've taken this action because of my love for her and love for my country and that I know it will triumph and so that she must not live with any shame about that, she must live with pride and know that this is the price that we have to pay. That was the Last Will and Testament that I smuggled out through Doha.
POM So they found that will when they arrested
MM Murthi in 1965 and they had already made an approach to me that they would force me to come and give evidence at the Fischer trial and I had parried it by saying it was an unexpected visit that they made to Robben Island, they called to see me alone. I didn't know they were seeing Wilton also and when I went into the room Swanepoel was there, Viktor was there, Van Rensburg was there, the whole delegation.
POM This was on Robben Island?
MM Yes. We didn't know that Bramwas arrested. That was our first news that Bram is arrested. They said to me, "We've arrested Bram Fischer and his time is up, we want you to give evidence against him." I parried that by saying, "What do you expect me to say if you took me to court?" And they said, "You know, you will have a lot of information about him." Swanepoel threatened, he said, "Listen if you don't co-operate, you are serving 12 years, you know under the new laws a person who refuses to give state evidence can be sentenced for up to five years at a time and we can bring you repeatedly to court and sentence you for an extra five years at each time for refusing to give evidence. That way you will be serving 20, 30 years. You'll die in prison." So I said to them, "Well, I don't know what you expect from me." I was playing for time. They said, "We're giving you a few weeks. We'll be back, you've got to think about it because you're in big trouble if you don't give evidence."
I went back to the prison and I consulted Madiba and Walter, told them what had happened and told them that I thought our treatment at that time was extremely harsh in prison, we were being blocked from seeing lawyers or anybody. I said, "Well this poses the possibility that they have the powers to subpoena me and take me by force as a prisoner and I have an idea that if we could bait them along that line we could do two things, we could extract information about Bram, what do they know, but secondly we could use the courtroom to publicise the conditions under which we are living in prison." Madiba thought that that exposing in the courtroom would be a good move and he thought that I should play them along but never make a statement.
Wilton, of course, had come back and reported what had happened in his case. He had simply responded to them, he said, "You go to hell. I'll never give evidence against Bram." We didn't tell Wilton or others, I think it was confined to Madiba and Walter, possibly Kathy, so we were waiting for the next visit and we were busy now preparing with Madiba. I was preparing what statement I would make from the dock about prison in a succinct way and cause a stir. So when they came back two, three weeks later their demeanour changed because they called me into that room in prison, in the office section where you walk in, upstairs, the Security Officers' room, and they were the same group and they said very aggressively, "Have you decided? Are you going to give evidence?" So I tried to parry that. I couldn't understand this aggression and I said, "Listen, what do you want me to say because you need to understand that if I was to say anything I would say the truth." And Swanepoel got up and said, "Fuck off, don't you come with that shit to us."
POM But he's already tortured you and not extracted anything from you so he knows.
MM So he knows and he's read the will.
POM But he also knows that threatening you doesn't
MM He said, "Fuck off you bastard, you're just stringing us along. You want to get information from us so you're just playing us along. You go to hell. Take him and lock him up." I come back, meet Madiba, he says, "What happened?" I said, "This happened, I can't understand what accounts for that behaviour." And I was saying, "Have I handled the discussion properly? Let's go through ball by ball what I said the first time. Let's go through ball by ball what happened here. It doesn't fit." And that enigma remained until about a year later Tim or somebody visited me and I happened to ask obliquely some question and she says to me, "Last year they arrested Murthi, I have been demanding that will of yours, I've heard about it and he was bringing it to me and they've captured it." Oh shit, right, this explains their behaviour.
So that's that. I don't know I know that Bram had read the will. I know it made a huge impact. I know in the regrouping of the party, and when Bram went underground before he went underground he must have given it to somebody. I don't know who gave it to Murthi, how it survived between Bram until it reached Murthi. He might know who are the others to whom it was entrusted and how it reached Murthi when my wife heard about it. A number of them must have read it and some of them might be able to remember the context of it, or bits of it. I have summarised the context of it as I remember it because the purpose of it was very clear. In my mind I was going to commit suicide, make the next attempt to commit suicide, and I thought it was very useful so that the suicide would be understood and the police would be identified because I named the officers and described what role each one was playing. It must have caused a bit of a stir.
POM Swanepoel would have read about the way the way you were treating him.
POM And you also outlined the games you were playing with them.
MM The games I was playing and the games they were playing with me and how I understood the games they were playing and this must have hurt him like hell to say, "Shit, this man was outmanoeuvring me", and where I had read him accurately he would have been able to say, "Oh, he's read me accurately." I think substantially he saw that I was reading him accurately and when they came on the second visit they said, "No deal with this guy. Just don't touch him, we are walking into a huge problematic area when we deal with this guy. So don't even bother to subpoena him, there's some trick he's going to play on us." That's how I read it.
POM He would use, if we called him as a witness he would use he was reading you that, knowing this guy, if we call him as a witness he's going to use the witness stand for some purpose over which we would have no control.
MM Yes, and sure in my will I had also said things like I've been a communist and I'm going to die a communist. I have my firm beliefs and I'm taking my life to protect the struggle. I know that we will win one day. So any impression that they had was gone. This is a hard liner, he's not going to change. We've tortured the hell out of him, he's not changed at all so there's no hope that we are going to get anything from him by proceeding to try and negotiate or compel him to do something in the Fischer trial. So that's how I read it.
POM Then Bram was arrested a year after he went underground? I must get his book or his biography.
MM His biography by Stephen Clingman.
POM I must pick that up this weekend.
MM And maybe Clingman, because he was writing about Bram it wouldn't have been necessary to feature in his book, but maybe Clingman would in the writing of his autobiography come across this part about me because I've read the Clingman book and although I feature in it peripherally I know I feature in it in a laudable way. But I am saying that if we want to find out independently about this will and possibly its contents, Tim would have heard about it, would not know its contents and was demanding that it's her property because I'm her husband.Doha was the smuggler.
So the trail is Doha, to his wife Ayesha. She may not have read it, she would have been just a courier. Then who she handed it to I don't know but it was intended for Bram. It certainly reached Bram and at some stage Bram would have given it before he went underground to some people and we don't know that chain but there would have been talk about it because the talked reached Tim in Cape Town, a rumour reached Tim. She demanded it on the grounds that it was her property and eventually some people decided that it would be given to her and she would have been demanding it from people like the Naidoos or from wherever she heard the rumour and Indres's brother Murthi Naidoo, he is living in Lenz, was entrusted to take it to Cape Town when he had gone there to visit Indres and the idea would have been that in that visit to Cape Town he would meet Tim and give it to her but right at the airport he was arrested and searched.
POM That's the airport at Johannesburg going to Cape Town?
MM No Cape Town, at Cape Town.
POM As he was departing the plane?
MM He left Jo'burg, he flew off from Jo'burg to Cape Town, he arrived in Cape Town and that's where they arrested him and searched him. So he could have been given the stuff on the way to the airport or somewhere but they arrested him there and found this thing on him. After his arrest when he came out at some stage he would have told Tim that, "Look, this is what they captured on me. So we have lost the will, it's gone, it's back in the enemy's hands." She then told me about it a year later, somewhere in 1966. So I am saying in between there maybe even Issy Dinat would have known about it because he was Murthi's brother-in-law.
POM Who? Issy?
MM Issy Dinat. He might know. But it might have reached Murthi through Indres's sister Shanti Naidoo also, she is also in Johannesburg.
POM She's related to?
MM Indres's sister. So somebody would have given it either to Issy or to Shanti to give to Murthi to take to and somewhere in that chain somebody would have read it because the one who I know definitely read it is Bram Fischer and he's dead but the other one who may have read it is Violet Weinburg, she's dead.
POM Just to finish on Bram when he was arrested the second time he was tried. The second trial is where they wanted you to be a witness, right?
POM And he was sentenced?
MM He was sentenced to life. He was imprisoned in Pretoria Central jail and he developed cancer in prison. His brother from Bloemfontein in the end when he was now terminally ill demanded that Bram be released into his care. They refused but in the end they agreed to keep him still as a prisoner but allowed him to be at his brother's home in Bloemfontein and within a few days he died in his brother's home. He was buried by the prison authorities and until today the prison authorities have not handed back the bones to the family because they have been trying to trace in the prison records where his bones were interred and the records are not sure. He was buried in some grave site with no tombstone with no name so people have been trying to dig up the records of the prison authorities to try and find out where he is buried and until now they have not succeeded.
POM But he's remembered so he's not dead.
POM Even if he's in his grave saying, "My God! I'll never be remembered. There's no stone up there, there's no name on it."
MM But last week we open the Bram Fischer House here, a legal resources centre has renamed its offices and the building where it's housed The Bram Fischer Centre.
POM We have gone along that route of
MM Still the detention, what happened in detention.
POM Yes, OK, and the stopping of the torture, then you being taken to trial. We've gone through the trial pretty extensively I think. I'll go back and I'll look at it, that's being edited now or it's not, I hope it is, it should be. It hasn't got back to me yet. The train doesn't move as quick as I want it to. The trial we've covered, I think, pretty comprehensively and we covered the torture of Swanepoel, of course, that you endured. Just before we leave Marshall Square
MM I can say a thing about the trial that's interesting, I don't think I've said it. At that stage we were in Pretoria Central Prison, we are put in a prison van, Wilton, Laloo Chiba and myself, we are driven off and the van stopped somewhere, I think it was Leeuwkop Prison and they then brought into the van oh no, no. When we were put into the van we found David Kitson and John Matthews in the van and so Wilton, Laloo and I are put into the van so that's the first time we get together. We are driven off to Jo'burg Supreme Court, we are put in the Supreme Court basement cells and in our Supreme Court cells I'm visited by the lawyer Joel Joffe. That day Joel comes and sees me and he's a bit surprised, he looks at me (Joel is in London).
POM He was your lawyer at the trial, yes?
MM Yes. He was very surprised, he comes looking for Mac, comes to me and says, "Are you Mac?" I said, "Yes. Why are you surprised?" He says, "I'm very surprised, I thought I would be meeting somebody old but you're bloody young. How old are you?" I said, "I'm 29." So he says, "Look, I was on my way out to leave the country after the Rivonia trial but Bram Fischer pleaded with me to stay behind and wait for the day when you come up for trial, you and Wilton come up for trial, and that I should come and defend you." So I said, "That's fantastic." And I said to him, "What is going to happen today?"
POM Now was he saying that in front of the others?
MM Yes. Well Wilton, Laloo and I were in a cell but I think he called me aside to speak to me when he realised it was me. So I said to him, "What is going to happen today?" He said, "No, don't worry about today", because I'm thinking do we talk and plan what we are saying.
POM Because you had no idea why you had been taken out and you wouldn't talk in the van, right?
MM Yes. But we realised in the van we are heading for court, it looks like we are heading for court. But what's going to happen at court? We don't know. Are we going to be required to plead, etc.? So I say to Joel, because it's about the time now, the court, he said, "I was just informed this morning that you are appearing so I have come rushing here." I said, "What's going to happen?" He says, "No, no, no, today nothing, you don't have to plead, nothing. It will be just a remand. It's a remand hearing, it will be postponed to another date. No charges will be read out, etc." So I said, "But I've been tortured." And he says, "Well, that's an interesting issue." He says, "he courtroom, the Security Branch are packed in the courtroom." I said, "Is Swanepoel there?" He said, "All of them are there." So I said, "Well I think I should tell the court about my torture." So he says, "Well this is a remand hearing, you are not expected to say anything, you are not allowed to say anything." I said, "But can't I then force my way and say something?" He says, "You can take a chance but then you must speak very rapidly. The judge is going to try to stop you and you must be prepared to be strong and keep talking even if the judge orders the orderlies to come and catch you and stop you from talking." So I said, "Great, great." So when I walked into the courtroom, we were ushered into the dock
POM Can you remember the name of the judge?
MM Judge Boschoff. No, the first judge I don't know. It might have been Boschoff, don't even know the name or anything at that stage.What I know is that when I walked into the courtroom we were put into the dock in a section like an enclosure, a wooden enclosure facing the judge, and seats for us, five of us. I look on my right hand side, I still remember, on the right hand side of the courtroom the seats in a slightly tiered way were just packed with about 40 Security Branch men and policemen and behind us, I remember, was the public gallery and the public gallery was divided, there was an aisle. On the one side were whites and on the other section of the aisle were blacks and I still remember that when I looked at the public gallery I saw my wife and friends, the Naidoo family and all, it was packed, and on the other aisle, that's on the left of my back, was the whites sitting and I remember Bram Fischer's daughter, Ilse, she now goes as Ilse Wilson, I remember seeing her seated there.
Of course in this strained environment we were handcuffed and suddenly the orderly demanded that everybody rise in court and we stood and the prosecutor simply got up in low tones, mechanical tone, said that he was asking for this case to be remanded. I then interrupted, I said to the judge, "I seek the court's protection", and I didn't wait for him to answer because Joel had briefed me, "Don't wait for it, don't ask for permission. Ask it but proceed as if you've got permission, just rattle off." I said, "I seek the court's protection, I have been tortured, my torturers are here, they are sitting in the public gallery", and I started recounting some of my tortures, how I had been tortured. The judge tried to stop me and I continued and I was, of course, very nervous because now I know I'm taking on the cops and I'm going to land still in jail and I'm going to be in prison still. So I was very nervous, afraid of what I was doing.
POM Did you name names?
MM No, this is the thing that I was criticised of. I named, I think, names but I remember when I had finished and the judge simply said, very calmly, "I will inform the State Recording Officer to pass this information to the police to investigate."
POM So he didn't interrupt you?
MM No, he tried to interrupt me but there was a stage in my nervousness that I paused. You're nervous and you're just rattling off, you've got nothing prepared so you're rattling away saying to yourself, don't pause, but suddenly your thoughts are disconnected and there was a pause and as soon as I paused the judge said, "That record will be passed on to the police to investigate. You are now an awaiting trial prisoner."
I remember George Bizos coming over to me, he said, "That was fantastic but you missed one thing." I said, "What?" He said, "You were doing fantastic, you named the guys but you should have pointed to them. They were sitting there in the gallery and you should have said that one there is Swanepoel, that one there is so-and-so, that one there is so-and-so." So I said, "Shit guys, I fucked it up." "No you didn't fuck it up."
POM The drama.
MM He said, "You did wonderfully."
POM Now did you name Swanepoel?
MM Yes I named him.
MM Yes. But I would have been just naming
POM As it came to you.
MM As it's coming, you've got nothing prepared, you're just rattling away and the first thoughts are just coming. I know in my mind he's going to stop me, he's going to stop me and I must get through as much as I can before he stops me. Suddenly I entered this mental state what do I say next? The judge was very, very sophisticated. He just grabbed that gap and he just said a simple thing, "A copy of this record will be sent to the police to investigate. The court is adjourned."
POM You say it was George Bizos who came over to you?
MM Yes, George Bizos had appeared. Joel Joffe was the attorney, present in the courtroom was George Bizos the advocate.
POM Got you. He was going to be your advocate and the other guy was going to be what we would call your solicitor. It's the same thing, counsel and barrister.
MM George might recall that incident.
POM Any repercussions after you made the statement?
MM Oh they came then we were taken to Number 4 Prison here which is the site of the Constitutional Court, the Fort, we were put in there, separated. Whites were taken to one section of the prison, Laloo, Wilton and I were taken to the single cells, those steel boxes, but we were searched, we were subjected to that strip search, your anus and your mouth and all. Sure, the police would come there and interfere with us, interfere with our visitors. The one prison warder in charge of that section, all the prisoners called him by a nickname Two Boy. They never got his real name. He was at times very abusive towards us.
MM Verbally and in the strip searches. We were stripped in the courtyard.
POM Would this be a daily procedure?
MM Every time you came in. If you went out to the other section of the prison to be consulted by the lawyers, when you were brought back they would still search you although it was in the same complex. You had to strip and be searched and they would do it in the crudest way. Then they would interfere with our visitors, they could cancel our visits and then there was a day when they came, they wanted to fingerprint us, they took us one by one. Poor Laloo Chiba had a desire to resist being fingerprinted so he put his hands in his pockets and they forcibly took out his hands and fingerprinted him.
POM So you were taken from Pretoria where you were held and the three of you
MM Joined in the van with Matthews and Kitson and then brought straight to Jo'burg and taken to the Supreme Court cells, taken into the courtroom and from the courtroom straight to Number 4 Prison.
POM So you never went back to Pretoria Central. You were now housed in Number 4 for the duration of the trial?
MM For the duration of the trial. The trial lasted a very short period. I think we were brought to trial mid-November, possibly 18 November, and the trial was over we were sentenced on 17 December.
POM Now you had Joffe who was your solicitor. He prepared the case, right?
MM Yes he prepared the case.
POM And in court the case was pleaded by?
MM George Bizos.
POM Was Bizos operating on behalf of all of you or operating on behalf of you?
MM He operated on behalf of four of us. One accused, Dave Kitson, who is now in Harare, opted to have his own advocate.
POM So he did Laloo, Wilton
MM Laloo, Wilton, John Matthews and myself. Kitson had a separate advocate, a chap called Zwarenstein. His grounds were that he had a family relative who was an influential figure in the then opposition party, the United Party in parliament. He was, I think, District Surgeon or some high civil servant and he had a lot of influence and that if he had a separate advocate it would give him greater room to manoeuvre around his defence. We said fine.
POM So he had also a separate advocate and a separate attorney?
MM I don't know if he had a separate attorney. No, no, the instructing attorney was the same, Joel.
POM Now Joel has a record of the case he prepared for you, your defence?
MM He might, he might not. I don't know, I've never asked him.
POM Would there be a record of that trial?
MM There should be.
POM Where would one go for that?
MM Department of Justice files. The courts fall under Justice.
POM So if I dropped a note to Maduna?
MM Yes, or to his D-G.
POM I've interviewed him ten, eleven times. I bought a suit for him in Boston. He had no suit and he had to appear on television. This was the 1992 conference.
MM So you should ask to see him.
POM Yes. I can see him, he's open.
MM And then raise the question that you want access to the court records and access to the prison records. Ask him for both. November/December 1964, Johannesburg Supreme Court. It would be The State versus W Mkwayi and others.
POM The proceedings we've gone through.
MM The proceedings were very staid. We never got up to defend ourselves. We didn't go into the box to give evidence and we merely made a statement from the dock, that is not under cross-examination, when it came to mitigation of sentence.
POM You could make a statement from the dock that would be an uninterrupted statement?
MM It's an uninterrupted statement, it's not under oath and it's not subject to cross-examination.
POM What did you use yours for?
MM Well we had quite a tussle. I was for an aggressive statement. Bram Fischer intervened and he sent word through George and Joel, he said, "Chaps, the time for brave and histrionic statements is past, the movement is in a very serious position."
POM I.e. a mess.
MM "It has been disrupted, smashed. Don't court longer sentences than necessary so don't take an aggressive stance, don't make any brave statements. Avoid that so that the sentences are as lenient as possible so that you can come out again and continue with the struggle. It's going to be a long struggle." So we made fairly bland statements but simply recounting a bit of our life, justifying, morally justifying our actions and saying that we were not guilty in our minds. Technically you may find us guilty but we are morally not guilty. So that was the stance. I had a big tussle with Joel. They had to intervene several times in the drafting of the statement and come back and say, "Chaps, that statement is out. The ones that you have drafted are out." So in the end we caved in. When they came and said Bram is saying so, that you couldn't challenge. Bram was defending a case next door in the Supreme Court and from time to time he would come into our courtroom, speak to George Bizos, etc. and greet us and the message was Bram is saying, "No, no, guys." When finally Joel came and said, "Bram is saying these statements that you are drafting out, out, out, cut, remove."
POM I'm sure you were preparing a very - When you were preparing the statement were you allowed to see Wilton and John Matthews and Kitson?
MM The five of us would get together when the lawyers came to Number 4, the Old Fort, and said that they are coming for consultations and we would sit collectively with the lawyers so we would discuss collectively but Joel used to give me everybody's drafts including those of Dave Kitson and John Matthews. He used to give them to me to go through.
POM Would they get a copy of yours?
MM I'm not aware. The three of us who were housed together in those cubicles would demand to be allowed time to come out of the cubicles but still remain locked in that block in a little passageway to talk and there the three of us, Mkwayi, Chiba and I, would be involved in discussing what goes into our statements and helping each other to draft. In that day through the consultation process we finalised what each one had to say, was going to say. That was the procedure.
POM Were you doing it in a way that your statements would have some complementarity?
MM Not about complementarity but about saying what we thought were the right things and not saying things that we thought should not be put in.
POM What did you want to say?
MM In my mind all I wanted to say was something along the lines of what Madiba had said at Rivonia, basically: to hell with you guys, you can do what you want. You can sentence us to what you want. We're not guilty. And secondly formatted on what one had read about Castro's speech in the dock when he was sentenced, the speech which has the title History will Absolve Me. He had made a statement when he was tried in Cuba and it was a speech which was published under the title History will Absolve Me. It became a model of defence. But I had also read in other trials. There was the trial under the Nazi rule of a Bulgarian who had been charged for the Reichstag fire trial, that was a speech and defence by Dimitrov. Then there was another classic, it was a book written by the General Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party who had been arrested and executed by the Nazis, a chap called Julius Fucik. In fact when I went for training, my first stop I told you was Czechoslovakia and during my visit to Czechoslovakia deciding
POM No, you never told me that.
MM My first stop from London, I had a mandate saying I could choose where I would do my training between Czechoslovakia, GDR and the Soviet Union and I was given a ticket London to Prague and in Prague I was given a ticket Prague to Berlin to Moscow. So I first investigated the training facilities in Czechoslovakia and decided to see if I found it interesting. I would have, if I chose to train in Czechoslovakia, gone for training at a town called Vrno, but I chose to go on and see what type of training would be available to me in the GDR intending to see all three and decide. As it happened once I saw the facilities and compared the two, Czechoslovak facilities and the GDR facilities, I felt very comfortable to decide then to start training immediately in the GDR.
POM You didn't even take the occasion to go to Moscow?
MM Didn't go to Moscow. But while in Prague one of things that I did with my Czechoslovak comrades who met me and who were my hosts was to ask them whether the widow of Julius Fucik was still alive. I had an impression that she was still alive and they confirmed that she was still alive, that's 1961, and they said that she was working for the party newspaper, Rudepravo, and so I asked them to please enable me to visit her and meet her. Now that was the widow of Julius Fucik because Fucik's book, I forget the title at the moment, had become one of the classic light reading materials where he had explained his life, his arrest, his tortures and his trial. It was written while he was on trial and smuggled out before he was executed. So these were
POM This was obviously translated into English and you were able to get it?
MM Yes, and read it in Britain when I was there. And heard about him.
POM In Britain, OK. So it would have been written about nineteen - ?
MM Oh written and published in the forties.
POM That might be in the SACP library?
MM No, that would be the big publishing house for the English language left literature of the socialist countries, what was it called? Not Vanguard, not Pluto.
POM Orion? No.
MM Trying to think of it. Not Sekker and Warburg. It was quite a big publishing house in Britain. It published and printed a lot of left literature. Britain had a left book club, oh Gollanz, Victor Gollanz.
POM Gollanz. Yes. You know they've come a long way because I've a friend who was contracted by The Economist and she did the biography of Victor Gollanz, about 800 pages. Then she did the History of The Economist for 150 years which was also published by them. So they've diversified.
MM Victor Gollanz was the left publishing house in Britain and it's very likely that they published, reprinted at some stage in the fifties, this book but it was published in a soft cover edition.
MM I am saying there was all this literature of trials that took place in other countries and how people conducted themselves. The main literature was coming from people who were tried in the Nazi times and then there was Fidel Castro's late fifties trial where he had put up this magnificent defence where he did not plead guilty, he defended his positions politically but he had this ringing conclusion which was virtually saying: whatever the court sentences me, whatever judgment you arrive at, history will absolve me. And this speech was a speech that made a great stir amongst us when the treason trial was taking place.
POM Did you read these trials while you were in Britain?
MM Britain, SA, the underground. Yes in Britain, Britain is where I would have first come into easy accessibility to this material.
POM So this was being used during the treason trial, sorry, the Rivonia trial?
MM Treason trial, Rivonia trial. It was a model of how you stood upright and maintained your dignity. Castro had been tried, that was the trial where he led that attack on the Moncada Barracks and they were arrested, so that's when he put up this defence, in the mid fifties, early to mid fifties, 1953/54 but the speech hit our minds somewhere when the treason trial hit us. That's when I first came across it. That was in SA but in Britain I was now in an environment where I could access all the material, I was just reading away, crazy. I am saying that when we came up for trial these were the sort of 'how you conduct yourself' and 'what you have to say' models. I had printed, as I say, Madiba's first defence speech. I am a black man in a white man's court and then I had been reading just before my arrest, Madiba's speech, "I have fought white domination, black domination and if need be I am prepared to die for what I stand for." These were models.
POM You were told to cut it.
MM You were told, hey, stop all that, that's enough. It's been said and that's on the record. You don't have to do the same thing and start courting a death sentence and life imprisonment. Your job is to survive now and get out as quickly as you can from prison, it's going to be a long struggle and you'll be needed back in the fight.
POM In your usual way did you say, I'm going for it?
MM I was already in the Central Committee, I knew Bram was the chairman of the Central Committee. There's no chance to sit down and argue with him, you're going to incriminate him so just shut up and let good sense prevail. Sometimes the advice of others has a better sense of judgement of what's right and what's wrong. Just accept it, shut up.
POM Unusual for you at that time.
MM No, I'm still like that. I may give the impression of being disobedient but I'm not, I'm a fairly obedient person.
POM While you give the impression of being disobedient you're fairly obedient or conversely?
MM No 'or conversely', it's just a distinction between form and substance and people look at form more often than substance.
POM That shows you have embraced the capitalistic concept of how to manipulate markets and everything else. It's perception that counts. Does anything about the trial, if you needed to give a quick snapshot in the way you say there's something you can never forget about being in Marshall Square when you saw the headline in the paper saying, 'Bram Fischer arrested', or 'Bram Fischer escaped', is there anything about the trial itself that stands out in your mind in that way, one thing that's indelible about it?
MM There are a couple of things that stand out because one didn't bother to take an interest in what the state was saying. The first thing that stands out is the state witness Lionel Gay. He was an amazing witness, one of us who had broken ranks in detention and gave evidence for the state. It was the remarkable ability of this man to withstand cross-examination by our lawyers and to virtually silence them. He did this with a technique that has left, while I have no grudge against him, I certainly do not accept in my mind I am prepared to put aside that he became state witness but there's an element that I can't put aside and that is he had a bag of tricks that he used not just to co-operate with the regime but to try and put the rope around us. He literally tried to get us sentenced to death and he did this in a very sophisticated way. It was not part of his main evidence and strictly you're supposed to cross-examine on that main evidence but the judge allowed him to add on, under cross-examination, and put on the record as substantive evidence matters that cropped up under cross-examination, that arose under cross-examination.
For example, when one of the defence lawyers, either George Bizos or Zwarenstein, I know he shut up Zwarenstein within two minutes. Zwarenstein just had to sit down because he was opening a dangerous territory. Zwarenstein, acting for Dave Kitson tried to challenge Lionel Gay's memory on something, "Are you sure?" And Gay said, "I'm very sure. I am sure because I remember another incident. That incident", before he could be stopped, "That incident was that we had decided to set up an execution squad." And Zwarenstein says, "I didn't ask you that." And the judge said, "Mr Zwarenstein, let's just hear the witness." And a matter that he had not been asked about he introduced to evade the question of whether his memory was accurate but what he put on the record now was that we had departed from the policy of not taking lives. Zwarenstein tried one or two and up would pop another thing, he'd say, "No, and I am saying no because I remember another incident." And Zwarenstein would say, "I didn't ask you that", and the judge would say, "Let's hear him", and up would pop another thing.
POM Did Zwarenstein go first?
MM Zwarenstein went first, he was the more senior at that time.
POM So you guys were getting - ?
MM We were getting clobbered now.
POM But Bizos and Joel were getting an idea of what this guy could do.
MM And when Bizos would get up to try and corner him he would pull the same trick. Bizos was battling and struggling his way through either with him or with Pieter Byleveld and the judge then intervened because, yes I think it was Pieter Byleveld, so Pieter was not as bad as Lionel Gay. I am saying 'bad' because Lionel Gay was raising issues that meant a departure from the policy that we defended at the Rivonia trial. You see at the Rivonia trial the substantive defence point was that we were carrying out sabotage but avoiding the loss of life was a distinguishing feature which closed the room for the judge to bring the death sentence. So in my mind in the Rivonia trial this stood out that our commitment to commit sabotage but in such way that we would avoid taking the lives of people was a factor that helped to save the Rivonia trialists from getting the death sentence. Now in our trial, portrayed as the Little Rivonia trial, the introduction of this element would have meant clearly a change in policy and that change in policy, if it could be established, could be used by the judge as a ground to go beyond life sentence to give the death sentence. Gay was doing this very consciously to knock our advocates, who were cross-examining him, right off their stride because it said don't tackle this witness, he's bringing information.
POM When you saw him as a witness and you heard him, well that's when you saw him as a witness first, did you sense a sense of betrayal? That this is a comrade
MM Oh yes, terrible betrayal, terrible betrayal.
POM You had been friends with him.
MM I had met him two or three times before that in the underground but the point is I just felt that he was going the extra mile.
POM It must have meant two things, first of all you see him as a state witness so that's one betrayal. Now you see him actually trying to put the rope around you.
MM Twisting the knife in.
POM When he came to visit you when you were minister and he said he was sorry and you said let's forget the past or whatever, did that stick in your mind that this man is saying he's sorry but right there on the stand under cross-examination he went even one bit further than the state was asking him to do?
MM Yes, it was clear he hadn't told the state about this but he was introducing it new because had he told them they would have used it. It has always remained in my mind, it has never gone out of my mind.
POM So when he said to you, "Forgive me, I'm sorry", it was like saying -
MM I don't recall saying to him that I accept your apology. My way was, that's the past, let's just put that aside, because I didn't even feel it worthwhile to raise it with him. To me he had gone beyond the pale and I would never bother to even seek to address the question with him because if you address it, for what are you doing it? To make him change his mind? To make him acknowledge that he had gone there and once he acknowledges it and then says sorry, what are you supposed to do except to say in the context of 'sorry' that you accept that, so why broach that subject? Let it die.
POM Saying you are sorry involves making amends.
MM So that was my frame of mind but this was one of the things that stood out. The second thing that stood out was that in Byleveld's cross-examination in this hostile court, because you could see the judge was allowing the introduction of things which were not pertinent to the question being answered.
POM Could Bizos say to the judge this is a cross-examination, he has to answer the question.
MM Yes, the judge is supposed to intervene and say just answer the question and don't stray over to new territory which is not part of your main evidence, you'd never raised it so you can't introduce a new thing. Just answer the question that you've been asked.
POM And the judge didn't.
MM But the judge didn't do that, he would intervene and say when the advocate is objecting, "Just answer my question", the judge would say, "No Mr Zwarenstein, can we just hear the witness."
The second thing that stood out was that there was a stage where Joel and George came to me and said, "You'd better expect the worst sentence." And I said, "What do you mean by the worst sentence?" They said, "We can't exclude the death sentence." The reason for that was that Piet Byleveld admitted that he was a member of the Central Committee, implicated me into being the Central Committee. Lionel Gay had insisted in his evidence that the Central Committee was taking all the key decisions even about the sabotage campaign. Now Byleveld did not identify Wilton Mkwayi, accused number one. He identified Mkwayi as a person whom he knew as being in the trade union movement but he denied, when asked to identify the communists, he went for me and he said, "That's a communist." "What do you mean?" He says, "No, I've been a communist, I am a communist and he is in the structures of the Communist Party." I think he even said, "He's in the Central Committee." That's right, he said, "Not only has he been in the District Committee, he's in the Central Committee." Now of all the accused I became identified as the only member of the Central Committee.
POM Did you wonder why he did this?
MM Yes we wondered why he protected Wilton but fingered me but we could not find an answer. But let's keep to the story. So Gay says all decisions are controlled and taken by the party and that's by the Central Committee. The ANC congresses, MK, nothing, all decisions are taken by the Central Committee. Pieter Byleveld says, "Mac's a member of the Central Committee." Bizos stands up because he can see if these two things stand there's trouble for Mac. So Bizos now in his cross-examination of Byleveld tries to extricate that, that danger, by trying to take Byleveld through a cross-examination to show that the Central Committee did not take decisions for the ANC and MK and Byleveld says, "That's true, it did not." And the judge intervenes. The judge intervenes to try and knock that statement out of the way from Byleveld. Byleveld says, "No, Central Committee took decisions on political questions, it did not take decisions about what MK should do." The judge intervenes and an altercation takes place between Bizos and the judge. The judge says, "What's the point of your questions?" He says, "I'm trying to show that the Central Committee did not take decisions for MK." Because the circle is, MK is there engaged in sabotage, Gay says those decisions, directives come from the party, Byleveld says I am in the party's highest organ, so I'm being wrapped up tightly and Bizos' questioning is to disentangle that and he pursues Byleveld until Byleveld says the party Central Committee, of which he was a member, did not take decisions or issue directives to MK. The judge intervenes to block that line of questioning and says what's the significance of it? And Bizos says to the judge, "The significance of this will emerge because what this witness, who is a member of the Central Committee, is saying is that you cannot link the actions of MK to the Central Committee." And the judge's altercation comes and he says, "Mr Bizos, you and I know the communists, they don't allow", and he does this on his bench, "They don't allow", and then he does this gesture from the bench, "They don't allow the left hand to know what the right hand is doing." And poor Bizos has to shut up on that line of questioning. So when the break comes Bizos and/or Joel come to me and they say, "Mac, it's gone very bad for you. You'd better prepare yourself for the death sentence." So I said it's OK.
POM You said a gesture doesn't appear on a tape.
MM I said, "So what? If that's the way it's going to fall that's the way it falls." So that's the second incident that stands out.
The third incident that stands out, which I'm not so sure whether we should use because it puts one of the trialists in a bad way. It was a series of events and it started when we were preparing how to conduct the defence. Our instinct as the accused was that one or two of us should go into the witness box under oath and subject ourselves to cross-examination and the question was who should go in the box. Our first thoughts were that we should put Dave Kitson into the box.
MM Because we thought that he could give evidence in such a way that he would defend what we had done and do it in a fairly credible way. He comes from a fairly well established family, white family. He's an articulate man, he was one of the top agents of the British Communist Party in elections in Britain, a long record, and he was in the Technical Committee of MK and then post-Rivonia in the High Command. We thought he would be good, seasoned. When he prepared his first draft we got a shock because in his first draft Wilton Mkwayi, in the consultations with the lawyers at Number 4, lost his cool because Dave Kitson in his draft said we had set up an execution squad.
MM Yes. And Wilton said, and Wilton is another character, he's not going to argue in a sophisticated way, he just lost his cool and he said, "I don't know what you're talking about." Now we realised that oh-oh, this is witness under cross-examination, we don't know how he will go.
POM This is before the trial?
MM This is while the trial is going on and we are preparing.
POM You're preparing yourself for your final statement or for cross-examination?
MM No, who goes into cross-examination, who goes into the box.
POM Who goes into the box, and he was saying that if he went into the box he would say that you had set up an execution squad and thereby kind of putting the rope around everybody?
MM Yes. And we say on this thing we've never been questioned, we've not been interrogated, why are you raising this thing? And Wilton says, "I know nothing about that decision." And Dave says, "But we took that decision." Wilton says, "I know nothing about that." Of course we're sitting with lawyers, you don't want to involve your lawyers in that discussion. There are certain ethics that govern lawyers too who won't say they didn't hear this. We became very, very edgy and again the matter arose between Joel and myself.
POM Why would he say that?
MM I don't know. There was no time to converse properly with him because he was in the white section of the prison and we had limited time to be together but the relationship
POM Was he not indicting himself?
MM He may have thought that he was going to extricate himself on that, by being the person volunteering the information. That's why I say I'm a little bit edgy, he's still alive. His wife has just died.
MM He served about 20 years. But Joel and I discussed it and I said my view is don't take a chance, let's not try to re-amend his statement and tailor it to be the right one. Let's just give him up. He's not going to be a witness. Remember he had taken a separate defence also. OK, we decided no. Then the question came up, well if he doesn't go in the box who goes? And we were toying around with Wilton or myself going into the box. This matter was under discussion for a while and then the lawyers came and said, "Look guys, we've consulted Bram. None of you, don't go in the box. You'll achieve nothing." Bram is saying, "What's the purpose of one of you going in the box? The defence of the legitimacy of our struggle has been made adequately in the Rivonia trial. It's enough for you all to say you're a part of the struggle. You don't have to feel that you have to re-iterate the legitimacy of your power struggle. So none of you are going into the box." So we took that decision, we said fine, let's prepare statements from the dock.
The Attorney General who was prosecuting the case was Masters. He was a very polished Attorney General.
POM A good lawyer?
MM Fairly good lawyer certainly. But then he picked up that none of us were going into the witness box and he went to our defence team, furious because he was preparing to cross-examine. Remember in my speculation everything that they picked up through their bugging was that Kitson is going to give evidence, so he must have been preparing to cross-examine Kitson and they must have picked up this thing of the execution squad and that we tried to suppress it. He must have been preparing, been prepared by the Security Branch with great expectation that this is going to be
POM A knock-out punch.
MM Quite a blow. But when he heard that none of us were going into the box he got livid about it and he went to George Bizos and said, "Is it true that none of your people are going into the witness box?" Now George wouldn't say because the defence will hide what their tricks are so George obviously tried to parry it and Masters said, "I have a 113 page confession from one of the accused. If you don't go into the box I am putting it into the records." George Bizos comes to us and says, "Chaps, there's a problem here. We've decided not to go into the box. Masters the A-G is furious and he's threatening to put a 113 page statement on the record from one of you. I think we're in a minefield here. I am convinced, my view is, but I have an obligation to put it to you, guide me, but my advice is don't go into the box." So I say, we're nearing the end of the trial, "Does he have a basis to introduce such a statement?" So he says, "No, I don't think so. I think the state has concluded it's documentary evidence." So I say, "Well then I think we will go into the box."
POM You will go into the box?
MM Yes. So Wilton, or one of them, or the lawyers say, "But why?" And I think Wilton was saying, "No we don't go in the box." So I said, "No, nobody amongst us in preparing their briefs of telling what the state knows and preparing our case has admitted to that statement so I say one of us goes in the box to give the state the opportunity to put that on the books so that we know."
POM To give the state the opportunity?
MM To put that evidence.
POM Because then you would be able to identify
MM Then we will know who did that. George and Joel said no. "No, no, it is good that that statement is not on the evidence. Why do you want it out?" I say, "I want it out to know who amongst us did that and has not told us." I was overruled. Wilton said, "No, no, no."
POM Even though by doing so you would be almost inviting a death sentence?
MM You'd be inviting trouble.
POM A lot.
MM But my instinct was I don't want to go to my death not knowing and the public not knowing. Let it be known. But the rest overruled me. That stands out. But I say it's a tricky one because I can only speculate. I don't have hard evidence. I can speculate who. I can speculate how I think the enemy got to know of my identity and my whereabouts leading to my arrest and my normal speculation would have been Lionel Gay because he had been to my home once. But in the light of that I had changed my mind, of all those little things I had changed my mind as to who had told the police what I look like, where they can find me, etc. I can speculate who was the first to break down and give the police vital information. But I say we must put this aside, put it aside because that instinct that I had, let's go in and get it out, whatever the basis of that instinct the fact is that history has shown it's irrelevant, it's not even a footnote. I think as many people broke down and said terrible things against us from amongst our ranks. They are not a very large number but with all that the legitimacy of the struggle has stood the test of time and the outcome of the struggle has stood the test of time.
POM When George, your lawyers informed you of this and you all go back to your cells is not uppermost, at least in your mind, who has done this?
MM It is and I think that the three of us, at that time, and the three of us black accused who were staying in the same section and could shout and talk to each other, we had a consensus as to who was probably the problem. We had a consensus amongst us but we had no hard evidence to base that on, who was the person who had done that.
[POM It would have been Kitson.]
MM Everything had pointed towards him.
POM Because he had brought in the execution thing.
MM Separate defence, unnecessary things being revealed and the possibility, saying just as when the question of the possibility of the death sentence arose that he had relatives who could intervene on his behalf to get clemency and we said, "What clemency? Clemency means you cut across our statement that we are not morally guilty because the moment you ask for clemency you are (a) breaking ranks with the Rivonia position of no appeal and (b) you are actually saying to the enemy I'm sorry." We said, "Not at all." And when he got 20 years his wife fainted outside the courtroom. All that circumstantial evidence did point in that direction but I'm saying, Padraig, I've come out with this thing, I still say I don't think we should use it. Nothing is gained by using it. We have forgiven the apartheid enemy for worse things. I may not have forgiven some of my comrades who had broken ranks but there is no place inside me to say I want to extract some revenge. For what? I don't see any reason for it. So that's my feeling. You may think I'm talking nonsense but that's it.
POM No, since in the end it's only speculation on your part I don't think I would ever use any name or name any person where it's built on speculation to name a person.
MM I don't think it should be used.
POM You're leaving yourself open to libel. By the way, it would sell a lot of books. Nothing like a libel case to suddenly make an obscure book into a best seller.
MM But we don't have to make it by kiss and tell things.
POM No. But it gives context.]
MM I was explaining this thing because you had said what stands out about the trial. These are really the three things that stood out about the trial and then of course the fourth thing is, which I've talked about, is the attempted escapes and the plan for the escapes.
POM The Benoni gang.
MM Yes, but from the point of view of the defence the aftermath of that has been that was the first time I met Joel Joffe. We had a very short interaction over a period of just a month and I think we became lifelong friends and Joel Joffe I think became an admirable and most reliable friend to me for the rest of my life. I know that I've been to him on my personal problems. He's not a member of the ANC. He's done well for himself in Britain, he's now Lord Joffe. Tony Blair gave him the knighthood. But he remains a very good friend of mine and of Zarina. When I was coming in in Vula he gave money for the development of the communications without wanting to be acknowledged and when I was coming in for Vula I went to him in Swindon to his home and he's one of the people to whom I said I'm going home and I'm worried about one thing, what happens to my wife and children if I were to die, who would look after them. And he said, "You don't have to worry, I'll look after them." I think that's an unusual friend and he has remained like that with me.
POM Would you call him before I go? I think Judy's been trying to call him and getting nowhere.
MM You'll have to give me his numbers, I've lost them all on my computer.
POM I think I just have the one for him but I'll give it to you before I go.